Look Up is definitely anti-social media, but is it really ironic?

When a video garners almost 20million views, 146,315 thumbs up, and 4,214 thumbs down on YouTube in just ten days, it’s safe to say the clip is a viral smash- the kind of engagement levels most brands can only ever dream of from their social media marketing efforts. Such is the case with Gary Turk’s Look Up, a spoken-word call to action for the digital generation.
The message is simple- we spend so much time staring down at one device or another we’re at risk of forgetting how to live life properly. Spanning childhoods- once spent on parks and bikes now taken up by sedentary pastimes such as video games and online chat- through to the joys of your first grandkid, if nothing else it’s an emotive piece of work that, with a little help from an evocative acoustic guitar instrumental soundtrack, can’t help but resonate with anyone who has ever been remotely concerned about the increasing amount of time people now dedicate to the virtual world.
It’s also not without fault. Video games, for example, have been a bane of existence for parents everywhere for well over three decades now, and arguably have become more of a shared experience as technology has progressed. Consider the earliest platforms, compared with today’s consoles and their support for multiple players on the same machine, not to mention concepts such as Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinnect and Sony’s PlayStation Move, designed to introduce physical exercise into sports, music and beat ’em up titles- arguably improving the lifestyle of many gamers, while also turning the experience into more of a shared, fun and (truly) social one.
Of course there’s plenty of truth in Look Up, too. This isn’t the first time someone has put together shareable content with the sole intention of speaking out against the rampant digitalisation of the human condition, with statistics and results of studies focussed on how much time we spend online providing ample fuel for the argument that our species is slowly losing its ability to interact naturally, instead relying on calculated status updates and instant messages. The fact that this sermon (and all those that have come before) has found such popularity on the very platforms it criticises has been labelled by The Drum as ‘rather ironic’, but we’d argue this is actually indicative of the overall point.
With so many people re-posting and supporting the overall idea here via networks such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, there’s clearly a disparity between what we ‘need’ and ‘must’ use, and our feelings towards those entities. So, whilst it’s becoming more difficult to avoid engaging with at least one digital platform, from concerns over security and personal information to widespread disdain for the self-promotional sentiment that dominates most of the social posts we’re exposed to, it seems as though an ever-growing number of us are regulars on social but many apparent advocates wouldn’t necessarily agree with the statement that they ‘like’ these platforms. They interact with them simply because they have become so intrinsically intertwined with the things they do ‘like’, from music to charitable events, current affairs to political protest.